Book Review: Last Memoria – Rachel Emma Shaw

Author: Rachel Emma Shaw
Book Name: Last Memoria
Release Date: May 10, 2020
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 3 Stars

3 Stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories.
Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
World Building: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I always struggle with writing a review when my personal opinion and preferences conflict with the quality of a book. This book pulls me in all directions because I’ve hit that kind of conflict as you can see by the disparity in my above area ratings.

I’ll be upfront and say that this isn’t the kind of book I enjoy. It has a heavy, depressing theme throughout that never really lets up. I struggled to like or sympathize with the characters because their thoughts and actions tend to heavily reflect that theme. If I had understood that ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have read this. If I hadn’t been reading specifically for a review, I might not have finished at close to the half way point for that same reason. But those are my personal preferences, so take it with a grain of salt.

That said, this was definitely a well written, unique storyline with a nicely developed and interesting world. Anyone that likes the darker tones in their stories with deeply, humanly flawed characters would probably really enjoy this.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Book Review: Oath Sworn, Jacky Leon – Book #1

Author: Kristen Banet
Book Name: Oath Sworn
Release Date: July 15, 2019
Series: Jacky Leon
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Jacky Leon isn’t someone who goes looking for trouble. She owns a bar, pays her taxes, and serves her drinks cold outside a small town in Texas. The fact that she’s a werecat is just something she’s had to live with. Alone in her territory, she’s lived a secretive life for six years: under the radar, avoiding her past and the baggage that comes with it.

Trouble finds Jacky, though, in the form of an eleven year old girl and a werewolf turf war just outside her borders. Forced to honor an ancient treaty and the Laws of the supernatural world, Jacky swears an oath to protect Carey Everson, the human daughter of a local werewolf Alpha from Dallas.

When his enemies come after Jacky and her charge, she’s going to have to embrace the more dangerous side of who and what she is. She’s going to have to challenge the very Laws that govern her kind.

And nothing is going to stop her from honoring her word.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
World Building: 4.5/5 Stars
Uniqueness Factor: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4.5/5 Stars

I already tend to be a sucker when kids or taking care of kids takes a big role in a book. Combine that with a fantasy book with shifters in it and I could not pass this one up.

The second that “get the kid” scenario popped up in the story, I was seriously hooked. I loved how the problem of this really out there premise is presented. For one, that is kind of right up my alley as far as a kid premise goes and I’m always fascinated to see how an author can pull that theme off, if they can actually do it in a way that makes a reader believe it. Because this was a fantasy, it was a cool and unique way of presenting the problem and the author sold it really well. And believe me, I was watching that closely as I know how hard it is to make that work, so I was thrilled to see it pulled off.

That whole premise and how it ties into the world that is created here helps to add to the uniqueness factor of what would otherwise be a normal shifter style book. You get the range of paranormal creatures often seen in UF, though the main focus are the werecats and werewolves, but the background and history of this world felt new and different.

The only reason this didn’t tip over into a full 5 star range for me is that once you hit that shift in the story (a little over the half way mark), the plot slows a bit and I lose a tiny bit of what I loved about the first part.

I really enjoyed this and already have the next in the series downloaded and ready to dig into.

 

Brittle Winter Veins

PSA from a whiny, wimpy girl:

Whiny, wimpy girl cannot recommend attempting to repierce your own ears. Especially if you are whiny and wimpy, cannot handle pain (at least in odd areas that aren’t used to feeling pain) and may potentially faint in circumstances like getting your blood drawn.

No. Seriously. Just don’t.

Except, this whiny, wimpy girl is also an idiot and did just that yesterday.

Somehow, at some point, I must have scraped the inside of my earlobe and when I didn’t wear any earrings for an extended period of time, one of my holes closed to the point I couldn’t get an earring in. Over the last several months, after I realized this was an issue, I’ve tried to see if I could manage to get various different earrings in, but was never able to.

Idiot that I am, I really didn’t want to try and go somewhere and spend money to have someone poke that hole back open. I was also pissed that I have all these amazing earrings, many that I’ve made over the years, that I couldn’t wear. With MC’s scholarship ceremony (which was really cool, BTW), the ballet and a whole list of things coming up in the next month or two, I was determined to figure out exactly how closed off it really was.

I grabbed a pair of small studs that I’d be able to leave in for a while. In all my attempts, I’d never gotten the post to go much past the opening. Yesterday, when I tried, I had this immediate “pop” and that sucker was in farther than I’d been able to get it. It didn’t even really hurt much, though there was a little blood, which I was handling decently at the moment. I thought “Awesome! This is going to be easier than I thought!”

There was still some resistance past that point, so I pulled the earring back out, cleaned it up really well, coated it in alcohol and tried again. It would NOT go any farther. I twisted my earlobe to see what the backside was looking like and I could see that there really only was a small layer of skin to get through. No big deal right?

So wrong!

Did I mention I’m a whiny, wimpy baby when it comes to certain pains? And yes, I have been known to pass out getting my blood drawn.

I was now feeling a bit lightheaded after that little bit of blood and the longer it took to finish, the more my stupid brain focused on it and the worse I got. It didn’t help one bit that this tiny piece of skin was stubborn and I think holds about 95% of my entire body’s nerve endings, every single one of them telling my brain “This shit hurts!”

I’m in the bathroom off my kitchen having decided that right before the kids get home was the perfect time to do this. The pain and queasiness got so bad, I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out, so I had to lay down on the floor. I’m laying there and imagining MC walking in from school and freaking out to find his mom half in and half out of the bathroom on the floor like an unmoving blob, so I forced myself to get back up not wanting to scar the kid for life.

Nothing I did got that paper thin layer to break. Each time I took the earring out to clean it and reposition it, I got queasier. My brain convincing me that breaking through that skin was going to create a gush of blood. I did get a little smarter at that point and started using some ice on the lobe to numb it up, but that only dulled it down a little.

The earring wasn’t doing the trick with a dull post end, so I got a pin and did the same thing. Cue even more pain. And still no break through. I resorted to putting pencil eraser against the back of my earlobe hoping to give it some leverage. This between breaks of me sitting on the toilet lid with my head between my legs trying to get the room to quit spinning while yelling at myself in my head for being an idiot of extreme proportions.

But apparently that didn’t help. I was still a frickin’ idiot. A stubborn and determined one because I WAS going to get to wear my earrings again, dammit! After more ice, a really numb earlobe, MC getting home and laughing is butt off at me then hightailing it to his room so he doesn’t have to see his mother lose her lunch, I manage to get the tip of the pin to finally break through. Yes!

Uh, okay. Nope. The skin is now broken, but it refuses to open up enough to let the post of the earring through. This starts another round of fighting off passing out or puking.

More ice, more wimpiness and lots of whiny whimpering later, I finally manage to get that damn earring all the way through, shockingly, with no more blood. So yes, I did what I set out to do, but damn! That was such a bad idea. I’m so lucky I didn’t actually pass out and crack my head open on the toilet.

It wasn’t until it was all over and I was still fighting of feeling queasy hours later that I realized that part of why it was so frickin’ hard to break through that layer of skin is because it was probably a thin layer of scar tissue.

So, no. I really, REALLY don’t recommend this method. Just go somewhere and have a professional do it. It is over in seconds, not nearly an hour. And if it hurts, you can blame their technique and not your own personal idiocy. But hey! I can now wear all those amazing earrings I have sitting around collecting some tarnish.

 

 

Graphics For Envie! Magazine

So… that graphics project I mentioned? I was asked to redo the logo for Envie! Magazine as well as work up a badge for their blog awards. In the process of working on those, we decided it would be really awesome to make a badge for any of the staff members that wanted them for blogs or websites.

The designs are now officially done and I can share them, even though they haven’t been put in place everywhere just yet and the staff badges still need to be personalized.

It has been a while since I had the opportunity to really play with any graphics outside of creating a t-shirt design for science club. Getting to work on this was such a blast! Yes, it was technically work, but for me it was fun. This is the kind of work I love to do. I especially love it when I’m working with great people that make the project even more fun.

I’m so thrilled with how these turned out and so grateful that I got the chance to work on these.

New logo:

Envie! Magazine Logo
Envie! Magazine Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Award Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Blog Badge
Envie! Magazine Blog Badge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Member Badge Example:

Envie! Magazine Staff Badge
Envie! Magazine Staff Badge

 

Painting The Mood

Of all the “accidents” I managed, this one is has a different kind of interest for me as it almost has a painting like look to it. There are so many times I’ll look at the sky, especially a sunset, and it looks like it has been painted there. I think this is one of the only times I’ve ever managed to flip that on it’s head and get a photo that looks like a painting of the sky.

Continuing The Theme

Here is another moody one from the series of photos I got “accidentally”. It fits my mood at the moment. Can you believe that my cough is actually worse after having gone to the doctor? And not in that “it sometimes gets worse before it gets better” kind of way, either. For this reason alone, I’m ready for spring and warmer temps. This crap is… well… crap.

Cool Mistake

I’ve mentioned before that some of the coolest things I’ve ever created started as a mistake. This may be one of them.

I took this while we were driving the other day. The sun was doing this peekaboo thing from behind the clouds, but there was still a sort of thin layer in front, so it was being filtered, creating this amazing effect. I attempted to get a shot of it, but it was still too bright and blew out my shot.

Because I was in a moving car, I had to adjust quickly or miss the shot. In going that fast, I pushed the levels just a bit too far to the dark end of the scale, but the results are amazing. It really wasn’t that dark, but I love how much of an eerie feel these photos ended up with. Especially with the stark, black silhouette of the trees.

I have another one or two I’ll share over the next couple of days.

Book Review: Great Balls of Fury, Federal Bureau of Magic – Book #1

Author: Annabel Chase
Book Name: Great Balls of Fury
Release Date: February 22, 2019
Series: Federal Bureau of Magic Cozy Myster
Order: #1
Genre: Paranormal/Urban/Fantasy/Mystery
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Annoying but loving family? Check.

Picturesque small town with a hot police chief? Check.

A rescue hellhound, a black cat with attitude, and a pet python that thinks he’s a puppy? Triple check.

My story has all the hallmarks of a sweet and cozy supernatural tale, but there’s a twist—

I am evil.

Well, I’m supposed to be evil thanks to both nature and nurture, but I fight it with every fiber of my being. I just want to live a normal life. I even joined the FBI instead of the Federal Bureau of Magic, until my powers reared their ugly head and the agency sent me packing back to my hometown to fight magical crimes instead.

Now I’m back in Chipping Cheddar, living with my evil family, with a new job and all my old baggage.

Oh, and there’s a dead body, which was definitely not an accident.

So there you have it. Welcome to my world.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

I honestly struggled with this one. Mostly, I like the bones of the story and the world that is created here. I like the idea that the main character is a fury.

But… and there are few of these… but, there are just some things that didn’t work for me. Normally I love me some irreverent snark and attitude. I’m pretty sure that was the direction this is trying to go with the family dynamics, but instead of it coming across as funny, it feel ugly and mean, something I’m not a fan of at all.

I also sort of get this feeling that if there is a paranormal/mystical type of creature that exists anywhere in mythology or fantasy, there is a very high probability that you are going to see it at some point in one of these books. That may not actually be the case. It just feels like this has that catch all flavor, instead of a specific, defined basis for the overall world, like it isn’t entirely sure what kind of fantasy/paranormal type of book it really wants to be.

The main character is interesting, but again, not completely defined to where you really know who she is. The side characters have personality, but they are either strangely ugly (the family) or lacking in much depth. Again, you aren’t really sure who they are as characters.

While I mostly liked this, it was a little weak in areas and pushed my peeves in others.

 

 

Red Tailed Hawk

It seems that whenever I see a hawk, especially one close, I don’t have my camera with me. Probably because that is often when I’m in my car.

We went to my FIL’s yesterday and I decided to take my camera on the off change I’d be able to get something cool, even if it was from a moving vehicle (something that rarely actually happens). Shockingly, I saw dozens of hawks yesterday. Sadly, by the time I saw them, we were already up on them or just too far beyond and I couldn’t get my camera ready in time.

By the time we were almost home, it sort of became this hawk spotting adventure for everyone. Of course, from the time we got off the highway and close to home, we were no longer seeing them. We decided to make a quick pass through the new section and I managed to grab a shot of this guy.

He really was just a bit too far away for me to get a good shot. Even then, this is pretty heavily cropped and the quality isn’t great, but I got a picture anyway.

I predict that the next time I get in my car without my camera, there will be a hawk  sitting on a tree or one of the lamp posts nearby and close enough to almost touch.

Last Of The Snow?

It is still way too early to tell. As of right now, we don’t have any more in the forecast. It is one of the reasons why I hauled MC out yesterday afternoon to try and get a few more photos for his senior pictures because he was adamant he wanted some done in the snow (because that is SO him, the gamer guy that rarely leaves his lair to venture into nature).

We’d had a beautiful, if cold, perfectly clear sky, sunny day. All day. I’d been watching the light trying to figure out the best time to try and get my shots. Just as we walked out the door, clouds came rushing in from the west and killed the light. Of course it did!

I still managed to get a few good ones, but I need to do some editing on them as they aren’t quite good enough. MC said he wants to do some with a range of backgrounds like sunset or even in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. I actually think it is a brilliant idea as I’ll have been taking pictures of him all throughout his senior year. Talk about putting together a true senior portrait package!

They won’t look all perfect and professional, because doing portraits is so not my thing. But… I have several that are really good already. I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to decide which one(s) I’m going to want to print to hang on the wall. I may have to come up with something really creative and do something like a large collage with all of them. I don’t know yet, but something.

On a side note, I’ll be editing my private post with the most current update on that situation for those that chimed in.

Frozen Bubbles!

I did it! I braved the horrid cold and managed to get several amazing shots yesterday. It took a little while as the area I set up in still wasn’t entirely protected by the wind and they broke easily. I felt a bit like a circus monkey in the process.

Blow a bubble, set down the bubble stuff, drop to my camera and attempt to focus only to not be able to find the bubble in my viewfinder because it had already broken. Pop up, rinse and repeat over and over. I did my best to keep them in mostly the same location, but I still needed to refocus on every single one and that sometimes took longer than the bubble could last.

Broken Soap Bubble
Broken Soap Bubble

I got nearly as many broken bubbles as I got whole ones. I almost love the broken ones the most because the way they collapse or break adds so much character and interest.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble

There are so many things I love about doing these. One is that they are very much like snowflakes in that each one freezes a little differently and creates different feathery, snowflake like patters across the surface.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble

It is amazing to watch the process of those patterns forming as the bubble freezes.

Broken Frozen Soap Bubble
Broken Frozen Soap Bubble

I had done a little research to see if there was something I could do to make my bubbles stronger. Found that using glycerine is supposed to help and I think it does some. Sadly, it also looks like adding that makes these so much harder to freeze. Of course, it took me about 15 bubbles before I realized these weren’t freezing the same as the ones I did last year, so I had to run back in and remake my bubble solution before I could get any decent photos.

Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Collapsing Frozen Soap Bubble
Soap Bubble Just Starting To Freeze
Soap Bubble Just Starting To Freeze

Side Note

The last post is private for a reason. I’d love some feedback and I’d love several of my regular readers to chime in, but I need to not have the post public. Drop me a message through my contact page and I’ll send you the password if you want access.

Sunset Geese

It is bitterly cold today. Funny, it is also sunny for the first time in a while. The cold and the bit of snow we got late yesterday caused school to cancel today. The timing is such that it gives my kids a 5 day weekend because there were in service days planned for tomorrow and Monday.

I would say that with the sun, it is a perfect day to get out and get pictures, but we are looking at low single digit temps and sub-zero wind chills (the biggest reason why schools closed). I really don’t like the snow enough to freeze bits of myself right off my body, so I’m just going to sit here in my chair and enjoy the snow on the ground against a sunny, blue sky day through the window while enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee, burrowed under my blankets.

If there wasn’t a breeze, I’d risk it to go play with bubbles, but not only is that wind COLD, it makes it impossible to do bubbles. Almost always seems to work that way. Finally get temps low enough and sun, but it always comes with that wind.

A Pretty Kind of Snow

We are getting another snow. Thankfully, this is one of the pretty ones that is wet and sticky and coats everything it touches. I am hoping that it stays that step or two above freezing until everyone is home safe, though. As of right now, the roads are the only thing the snow isn’t coating.

I think it is supposed to snow even more later, so I hope I get a chance to get out and take pictures tomorrow. I’m not moving today. I always forget how much of a work out it is to kneed fondant and you have to do a ton of that to work in the color. I need to remember to maybe try and add color while I’m mixing the batch in the mixer so I can save my arms and chest. That is so much easier than actually working out those muscles so I don’ fee like an out of shape noodle every time I work with fondant.

Maybe if I go lay in the snow, everything will quit hurting. I may be numb and get frostbite, but at least I won’t hurt!

Northern Lights Cake

I finished!

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Seriously glad it is done, though. It was a blast and, for the most part, it came out really well. I was hoping to add more color, but with that base teal, it didn’t work out. I had several of the issues I kind of expected to have with some color bleeding and in not being able to use the pink or purple because it changed the color too drastically when I attempted to paint it on the base (looked more muddy than pretty).

Northern Lights Cake - Base Paint
Northern Lights Cake – Base Paint

I started by painting the whole thing a lighter version of the sky color I was going for. I realized really quickly that this ended up working in a similar way to my favorite drawing method, the eraser technique, where you put a base color down and either add more to go darker or remove color to go lighter (you can see a tiny bit of that on the left edge of the above photo).

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

I don’t love the tree silhouettes, but they aren’t total garbage. One of the issues I ran into is that my base fondant started to bubble on the bottom tier making my cake look like it isn’t level or that I jacked up the alignment on the top tier. It really isn’t. I didn’t notice until I was taking pictures, so it wasn’t something I could go back and fix.

 

Mostly, I’m thrilled with how this turned out. Even more so after BG finally got a look at it and saw what it was. She is kind of crazy over the northern lights like some teenage girls are over the latest boy band so when she saw this she went nuts. As far as she is concerned, I knocked this one out of the park.

Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake

Just A Hint

Here is a tiny peek at what I’m working on. It will be finished later today. So far, it is turning out really well. The next step is the part where it could all go wrong which is making me a nervous wreck. If I don’t screw it up, this may just be one of the cooler cakes I’ve ever made. If I do? It could be the ugliest. No pressure.

It’s That Time Again!

I’m in full on cake mode, working on BG’s birthday cake. She still has no clue what I’m doing yet. This is going to be so fun if I can manage to pull it off.

The cake got baked yesterday along with getting the icing mixed up. I have to make my fondant and start putting it all together today. I am limited to working on this while BG is at school so she won’t see it until it is completely done. That means I have to get off my butt and get busy!

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that this doesn’t turn out to be one of those projects where my creative ambition outstrips my actual ability. Pictures of the finished cake will be posted tomorrow after BG gets home to see it for the first time.

All About The Timing

And I missed that timing by a bit. I had planned to try and get out and get some good shots of the moon when it came up last night because we had a rare clear day. The timing ended up messed up because I also had to go pick up BG from dance. I had to be in the car driving when some of the best shots were available.

I managed to grab this one after we got back into the neighborhood, but I didn’t have much time and hadn’t brought my tripod with me, so I had to settle for using my car’s roof for stability. I still love this because there is the deep color from the sky, but I hate that I didn’t have time to set it up to also get the detail of the moon instead of a whited out ball.

It was so much prettier than these pictures show. You can see a few wispy clouds in this one, but there were a few more around, giving the sky some really interesting features. It was especially pretty when you have the moon rising in one direction with the deep blues and the sun setting in the other, with vivid oranges, reds and yellows. (Yes, I have one or two of those I’ll be sharing soon)

I was ticked I missed the couple of geese flyovers that passed near the moon as that would have been a killer shot. I did managed to grab a couple with them in the sunset, but I’m not certain how great those shots came out.

I hated feeling rushed, but at least I got out and tried.